Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Open Quest 2 vs. Runequest 6, Legend and Magic World


I have a physical copy of Open Quest 2 from D101 Games now, so it's time to crack it open and see what's different about OQ2 from it's sister games...namely Legend, Magic World and Runequest 6. Of the three OQ2 has features and rules which extrapolate from all of its sister systems, but the core conceit is a variant of the Legend and MRQ OGL with occasional BRP loans. There are a few things in OQ2 which are distinct, including some GM friendly content to aid in generating scenarios that would be of use in any BRP-derived game system. Anyway....the comparisons! I'm going to look at OQ2 in terms of how it's different, since to be honest, the choice of this edition over one of the other BRP variants is going to boil down to the nitty gritty.

First off....a bit about the art. Some people don't like the older recycled art in Magic World. Many people absolutely love the art in Runequest 6, which is stark but clean and evocative of the old-world "adventures in antiquity" feel. Legend's art is all over the place, but tends to rest on the good side, with occasional forays into the nebulous realm of cheesecake art. OQ2 has a fantastic cover by Jon Hodgson. The interior is illustrated by Simon Bray, who has excellent coloring techniques but problems with anatomy and perspective. You may like the mix, and I think the excellent coloring makes the art work better than it would in black in white (hard to say), but every time I see another flat pair of saggy, oddly-drawn monster boobs or a muscled warrior with....weird anatomy....stuff that looks worse than the doodles I was drawing when I was 14....it's disconcerting. But I'm not going to be too hard on it, because for some reason my two-year-old son loves pouring through this book and naming all the monsters before smacking them down (he hits the page with his hand); the art works for him, apparently, which makes me think that my ten year old self of yesteryear might have had no issues with it, either. My nearly 43 year-old self however far prefers the RQ6, Legend and MW look in that order. I have unfortunately been conditioned by Paizo to expect art I can show my players with pride; I would be embarrassed to show them the art in this book.

Character Generation

The core skill mechanic, along with the resistance/resilience mechanic from Legend are intact here, with some simplifications. You now have just three core combat skills, for example: there is only one close combat and one ranged skill, rather than an array of attack/parry skills in RQ2, or the more abstract and culturally specific list of possible combat skills in RQ6. This system has the advantage of simplicity, at the expense of a quicker leveling process to high skill levels over time.

Attributes are distributed by a point buy process in OQ2, and interestingly it keeps a separate process for random character generation in a different section. A notion of "concepts" is introduced with ten such concepts on hand (archetypes or classes, if you will) that fill the roles seen in other sister games for culture and professions. OQ2 does not use cultures or professions, interestingly.

The OQ2 system eschews hit locations and especially veers away from the "HP by location" methodology of Runequest and Legend. Instead it adopts the BRP/MW method of a core hit point total and a major wound threshold (provided as optional).

OQ2 introduces Legend's hero points, which is a fairly common mechanic in most games these days. It does not port over Legend's Heroic Abilities, however.

Skills

The core skill system functions very much like Legend does, but there are a few interesting differences. The strongest difference is how high level skills work: when you've got 100% or more in a skill, and enter a skill contest, the only chance your opponent has of overcoming you is with a critical success. This is a simpler but less mathematically elegant system than the way Legend and RQ6 handle it, but the advantage of a quick and dirty process that works well enough, I suppose. The problem with this is that skill advancement is potentially a bit easier in OQ2, so it is likely characters will reach high skill levels faster in this system than in Legend or RQ6, which means having a more meaningful resolution system for high level skills would probably be a better idea...or so I would think. As ever, if you tend to run quests that last only 5-10 sessions this is a non issue. Since I tend to run year-long 52 session campaigns, it would be a bigger issue long term for me.

Sitting in the skill section is a section on relationships which is a short mechanic for providing rules on character relations with friendly NPCs. Following this is a wealth system (also optional) which provides for a wealth skill mechanic for generating income in down times. Interesting optional features that are distinct to OQ2 in function.

Equipment

Although there's a slight bit of streamlining, the equipment rules follow the core conceits of the Legend approach to gear. Armor is a bit simpler since you don't have to buy it piecemeal, as OQ2 does not have hit locations.

Combat

There's an emphasis on how deadly combat can be, and how its not at all unexpected to break and run from a fight if needed. Combat is a streamlined version of MRQ (Mongoose's first edition of RQ) with some BRP modifications thrown in. Here are the big differences:

Combat Actions: OQ2 uses the action economy of Legend, but removes the variables; you no longer get more combat actions for high stats; everyone gets one combat action and one defensive reaction, plus a chance to move your movement rate. So it's Legend, but with a locked number of actions.

Maneuvers: The maneuver mechanic looks closer to MRQ, with a series of options such as charging, disarming and great attacks and associated modifiers. The attack vs. defense rolls work on a chart that is a simplified version of the same from BRP, rather than the maneuver-granting mechanic of Legend and RQ6. YMMV here, as anyone who has gotten used to the Legend and RQ6 maneuver system may find it hard to go back to the dull and ordinary old methodology. On the other hand, this is definitely a simpler approach to BRP-styled combat, so there are fewer variables to worry about for those who prefer to get combat out of the way as quickly as possible.

Overall this is a nice redux of the BRP and MRQ combat systems, with less Legend/RQ6 DNA in it. If you're used to another BRP game's style this one may seem a bit stripped down, but if you just want something quick and dirty it will work well. Restricting the action economy will help GMs who dislike tracking multiple phases for high combat action PC and NPCs in other games like Legend.

Worth noting: I think the strike rank system, as presented in the classic RQ2 and RQ3 along with the optional rules for such in BRP, is more or less dead now in terms of modern BRP iterations. No one seems to want the old strike rank system around anymore.

Quests

This section basically explains how you play a quest....the whole point of the game, essentially. It's old hat for the vets but if one of those vets bought this and gave it to a fresh new player it could prove helpful to them, I suppose. Improvement points as an experience mechanic are addressed here, and this is one of the spots that's changed a bit for the easier: you simply spend a point to gain a 5% increase in a skill,  removing the "improvement roll" and its variants in the other BRP editions. This does mean that as GM in OQ2, if you are too generous then characters could rapidly outstrip the environment you have created in terms of ability...but the expectation of OQ2 is that everyone gets 1 improvement point per session, plus 1 extra point to the person who "pushed the plot the furthest" and 2 points to the person who made everyone have the most fun. I've seen breakdowns like this in other editions....and tend to think it creates a rather weird playing environment where the players become subject to what the GM thinks of their performance, something which could have unhealthy repercussions for how players act in the game. Call me old fashioned, but I still prefer the classic BRP methodology of "if you used it, you get an improvement roll" approach, which directly rewards the player for in-game actions, and encourages them to be engaged without also making them feel like they have to perform for the GM. This isn't a problem exclusive to OQ2; it's problematic for other games, as well. Note that this is all from the perspective of a GM: I want players feeling like they can participate and get rewarded even if they're wallflowers, and I don't want a style of approach that favors only the vocal special snowflakes.

Toward the end of this section is all the variable environmental damage rules along with some cool and simple rules for handling mental damage (i.e. from madness or terror). It's a simple but effective mechanic. Following this are about ten pages of charts and rules for setting up your realm quests, figuring out who is what, planar (otherworld) realms and even handling warfare in the course of the quest. Interesting stuff, and regardless of what BRP system you use this could be poached for setting up quests in Legend or other editions.

Magic

OQ2 has three magic systems: battle magic, sorcery and divine magic. This should come as no surprise to anyone; it's sort of a requisite that a BRP-powered game divide magic up in this fashion. Even Magic World, which started with just one system (the Stormbringer/Elric-derived sorcery system) has a sequel in the works with more magic systems. There's no escaping it.

Battle Magic (once known as spirit magic) is the core "anyone can learn this" magic system. It's got variants in most other BRP editions, so the differences are the interesting parts. For example, you have the magnitude of spells, which you can learn by spending improvement points to gain higher magnitude magic. I actually kind of like this approach, and it means players have more stuff to spend improvement points on, which will slow down skill progression a bit for longer campaigns.

The spell list for battle magic is also pretty extensive; there are more spells here for battle magic than is seen in Legend's core, RQ6 or BRP's system. Magic World does not have battle magic (yet).

Following battle magic is a bit on the ever-present but always underrepresented shamans and their spirit magic, followed by hero cults and a quick dive into divine magic. Cults are discussed, along with holy warriors (rune priests) and a nice selection of generic deities to choose from and customize as needed. Interestingly, POW costs common to other BRP systems to gain divine magic are here replaced by spending improvement points, instead.

Up next is sorcery. Sorcery has a single casting skill in OQ2, and a simplified approach to magnitude/duration/range effects (and the rest of Legend and RQ6's options are gone). The sorcery spells here appear to draw from a wider range than just the standard RQ spells, such as "Create Godform." I don't recall seeing that one before (though I could be wrong).

All in all the magic systems as presented here seem to work, and the differences are negligible. You'll probably find this to be the least controversial of OQ2's distinct rules variances from other BRP editions.

Creatures

There's around 60 monsters presented in this section. Aside from the specifics of the OQ2 system (i.e. no hit locations) the stat blocks are all straight-forward and you get a decent range of monsters to choose from, including a few demons that are distinct to OQ2. About the only negative I can say here is that there's no "chaos mutations" list which feels like a weird oversight for a game faithfully aimed at acting as a fan-modified Runequest. Oh, and there are ducks here, which is just plain cool. Ducks are sort of a Runequest "thing" and I still think it's a same that RQ6 felt like it had to hide them (and Legend had to redact them just in case for licensing reasons I guess). Also...there are illustrations for most of the monsters, but only a few are not cringe-worthy in terms of the amateur look of the art. Even if you're drawing saggy dessicated harpy boobs, if you don't know how to draw boobs, even if they are saggy and dessicated....just....don't. Please!

Plunder

Every edition of BRP/RQ/Legend ever needs more on plunder. It's what adventurers want, and GMs need to hand out. There are seven pages on plunder here, including some conventional magic items. Worth stealing from for your preferred edition.

The Empire of Gatan

The book concludes with a short introction to OQ2's default setting followed by an introductory adventure. It's a brief but interesting introduction to what I presume is Newt Newport's home setting, and would serve as a decent springboard for someone who needs a default locale for his or her OQ2 adventures. The module is a decent introductory quest that a GM could have running with nominal preparation.

Conclusion

The goals of OQ2 is to streamline a number of features and make the game's core focus on a basic adventure engine that avoids any needless clutter whenever possible. The problem of course is that one man's needless clutter is another man's sacred cow of gaming. OQ2 does a good job at what it sets out to accomplish, but it doesn't really do anything that's simpler than Magic World, for example; MW succeeds in providing a very quick introduction to a system that remains true to the BRP core rules, while OQ2 feels a bit like an OGL rendition of someone's house rules. Choosing OQ2 for your default D100-powered game engine is going to work best if you want a version that avoids the Legend HP/location mechanic, and avoid the more complex combat skill systems, and especially the impressive and hard to forget maneuver system which Loz and co. introduced to RQII (now Legend) and RQ6. Put another way: if you like the things OQ2 does differently, it's going to work for you. But if you like the way the other BRP games handle these features, OQ2 is going to disappoint. I think the best and quickest introduction to BRP still rests with Magic World right now (keeping it limited to one magic system and an easy skill system is a huge plus), but OQ2 is probably quicker to pick up than Legend, and is definitely more accessible than RQ6.

So...my chart on the BRP family of games so far:

If you want a quick to pick up and play game that is still robust then get Magic World.

If you want a customized MRQ/Legend/BRP variant that aims for simpler combat get OQ2.

If you want a gorgeous, extensive treatment on simulationist gaming with a strong classic vibe mixed with explorations into new angles on pulp adventure, all with the best art of the lot then get Runequest 6.

If you want a great and smooth system with a cool combat system and a very portable design with lots of different plug-in modules for historical and fantasy gaming then get Legend.

If you love Glorantha and want to use it as a setting then grab RQ6 or OQ2 as your best bets.

If you don't want to play fantasy then get the gold cover BRP book.

If you want the prettiest game get Runequest 6. if you want the ugliest game then get OQ2. if you want the one with the most nostalgic art then get Magic World. If you don't mind cheescake now and then, Legend is a good bet.

Next: a more precise breakdown of the D100 games.
Nabbed from Akratic Wizardry!
Alas if OQ2 was full of art like this it would have won, hands down, in the looks dept.















6 comments:

  1. Ooh. Cliffhanger!

    Thanks for the review-looking forward to the next piece.

    FWIW- Since Legend is still only $1 on RPGNow/DriveThruRPG, EVERYONE should get it, even if you don't think you'd play it you never know what you might find.
    Of course Age of Shadow is free, so...

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  2. Age of shadow....hmmm, I better check it out. But yeah, Legend core at $1 is a steal. And even without Monsters of Legend you could run a lot of historical campaigns using Legend core.

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  3. So whats your opinion on HeroQuest or RuneSlayers? (and I hope I am not missing any other related system)

    Cheers

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    1. Oddly I have no information on RuneSlayers, never read a copy. HeroQuest is interesting but a decidedly different game from BRP....good for its own purposes, but a different bag of cats entirely.

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  4. But If I want to recreate High Fantasy.

    Should I stick with Legend or get Runequest 6?

    Cheers

    ReplyDelete